Faith and Quarantine Survival

Quarantine–from the Italian meaning forty. Hmm, how many days will be in quarantine here in the United States? Even thinking about 40 days home alone is difficult for me. I think about my family and friends who are in different configurations during these circumstances–couples, couples with small children, couples with elementary children, single parents responsible for children while working, families with both parents working and trying to still educate their children, parents learning to home school, families with no income because their small business or jobs are shut down–all requested to stay at home, in place. Then there are military spouses in deployment status trying to maintain normalcy for their families as well. What we all need to figure out is a new rhythm of grace.

Grace for each other, grace for ourselves and grace for our governments. The first day I was serious about “self-isolating” the Lord spoke to me about changing my routine. I usually would wake, grab my coffee and do my devotional time safe and comfy in my waterbed. He said, you need to get up, shower, dress and move your study to the living room. I admit, I really didn’t like it! But as we are in our second week, I’ve begun to see the wisdom of that change. It is my new rhythm and schedule that has set a better tone for my life during these changes. Matthew 11: 28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you”ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heacy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company iwth me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. If you haven’t as yet–ask the Lord to help you find the rhythm of life for this new season. Give yourself the grace to have more conversations with your friends and family. I heard the other day that phone calls–are up an actual 33%. If you are alone–wondering about your friends and family–pick up the phone and call them. You may need keep it short, but it’s important for both sides of the family. I’ve found when you live alone it’s hard sometime to get outside your own thoughts–prayer definitely helps, but so does checking in with others. You might start by asking, “is this a good time to chat?” Then respond accordingly!

God gave us structure to our days with the rising of the sun its setting. He knows we do better with a schedule than without. Not necessarily a rigid one, but enough to follow His rhythm–which is always full of grace! The word tells us to “number” our days–this is one way to make the most of this unprecedented time. Throw in some fun! Add some surprises if you can! (I found some olives the other day–they added a bit of joy to my predictable meal!) Please know God is able to help us learn about Him during this season. We are learning about ourselves as well–things that may frustrate us, disappoint us–but don’t just look for the negative, look at the positive! How creative are you? We were made in the image of our creative God–ask Him for His creativity to change up the routine as well…once you have it established! Don’t forget to laugh, forgive and enjoy the people around you. This time will pass–sooner than we know. Make memories as you can.

Faith and “New Wineskins”

Here we are all experiencing something we never expected. Social distancing, sheltering in place or as our governor chose to rephrase “Stay at home, stay safe”. This is a learning curve for everyone. So as I was pondering these new changes, I came across a familiar scripture in Luke 5: 37-39 And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; or else the new wine will burst the wine skins and be spilled, and the wine skins will be ruined. But new wine skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wine skins, and both are preserved. This is the more familiar part of this passage. However, as I was reading the whole thing more slowly, I looked at the next part: And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for the says, the old is better. Or in the New Living translation say: But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. The old is just fine they say. Change has happened. We cannot deny it. We may want life as usual–with our family, our friends our church services; but for now that is over. I believe when this season is over we all will be different. There will be in a sense, no going back to life as normal. We must embrace the new wine for the season. I believe if we are willing, we can begin to develop a taste for whatever “new wine” He has for us.

For me, the “new wine” was how I was meeting with our Life Group ladies. By God’s grace and love we have grown into a loving caring community of women who are inspiring each other to grow in His grace and love. Many live alone like I do, and so in this time of isolation we need connection to the outside world. Which means technology to the rescue, right? Yes and no. I thought–it will be good, we will use Facebook Messenger to do a live interactive chat–but our group is too large to include everyone. My son mentioned a connect solution called Zoom. This is definitely new wine for me. I want the old and familiar!! So two of our gals actually uses Zoom for their business. “It’s easy.” Here are some links. They seemed so intimidating. I kept hearing, it’s easy, its simple. But, somehow my brain just sort of froze. I want the old wine! I had no desire for the new wine. Even grief came into play as I realized how my husband would have figured it out easily. However, because of my love for these ladies, I overcame my frustrations and I tried. It was a mess. All these pop up windows asking for permission to do this, to do that–just started overwhelming me. I shut my computer in frustration. But I had to persevere, because of my loving compassion for these sweet sisters.

I found out that we need others to help us develop our taste for the new wine. By watching my daughter and son use Zoom plus my friends encouragement I tried again. I admit I had to overcome my comfort and confidence in the old wine. I did discover the why it was hard the first time I tried–again user error….I was doing the “wrong” thing. When you feel ignorant it is hard to press on. Please be gentle in helping others try the new wine. Please slow down and walk them through what they need to do. One word from my daughter made it clearer–and my son helped and we moved forward.

Our first time was last night. It was good for our souls. It was easy after I figured out what to do. The youtube tutortials helped. However, the funny part was they timed us out because the “host” did not show up!! I was the host. Who knows what I did wrong!

Anyway, this is the time to seek the Lord for any new wine He may be giving us. He understands if we don’t want the new wine, because we are familiar with the old. God has new things for us. Let us rely on each other, encourage each other and be patient with each other as we try His new wine for this season. Your new wine may not be connection technology, but maybe working from home, or homeschooling your children–or just not being able to go out and about as usual. It’s ok. We will make it through this time. Keep on trusting, and washing your hands!

Faith and “Shelter in Place”

I learned a new term this week that the military uses during times of unknown safety issues. The term is “shelter in place”. It means to seek safety within the building one already occupies, rather than to evacuate the area or seek a community emergency shelter. Our governor, Jay Inslee, has requested that everyone over 60 or with high risk issues must “shelter in place”. The guidelines, as I understand them, mean you only leave your home for necessary errands: food, supply or doctor appointments etc. My children have asked me also to “self isolate” due to my age and asthma issues. Do I like these restrictions–yes and no. Part of me really enjoys the fact I don’t have to make any decisions about the rest of life! The decision has been made for me. However, these thoughts led me to consider the word “shelter” and how the Bible uses this very safe sounding and comforting word.

I referred to Psalm 91 last week–it still applies today! He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Isaiah 4:6 There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain. Psalm 9:9 The Lord will be a stronghold for the oppressed. A stronghold in times of trouble. All these verses remind us we have a God who we can run to in our time of trouble. Over the years of walking with my Lord I realize I have built confidence and trust in His ability to be that shelter for me. Maybe you haven’t walked with Him long–this season with so many changes, is the time He will build a greater confidence in His ability to protect, guide and encourage you. Sometimes the storms of life seem to crash into our shelter and we may question His faithfulness. Those are the very times you need to reinforce you trust. Run to Him, not from Him.

What picture do you have of God’s shelter? A tiny little place where you are huddled up, barely keeping dry and safe? Or a more planned place with reinforced walls with food and supplies already in place? Sheltering in place means you shelter where you are! It is a time we discover how safe and secure our home is. It reveals whether we have laid in food supplies and other necessities. It is God’s desire and plan that we “shelter in place” with Him always! That we learn to make our abode with Him and Him with us as natural as any physical shelter. It is a learning process, one He delights in teaching us. Have you hid His word in your heart that you may not only not sin, but you will have a ready supply of nourishing encouragement to feast upon, instead of fear thoughts?

So learning to “shelter in place” in the Lord requires us to look up, look in and built trust in His Word and His Ways. Monday I had some necessities to accomplish, but I asked the Lord what do you want me to do? He said, wash your sheets. I thought, it hasn’t been that long! So I chose to wash the mattress pad as well. When I went to put the bed back together I discovered dampness. I have a waterbed! Dampness is never good outside the water mattress. Through more investigation I found a pinhole size leak–not bad, but it could have led to a much bigger problem. Because I listened to His voice (and not ignored it!) I was able to stop the leak fairly easily with my on hand supplies. I have learned to not only ask Him, but listen to that little small voice. These are ways we build our trust in His shelter.

My prayer is that as we walk through these unknown days, we take comfort in the fact they are known by Him. We pray for those who have lost their lively hood as they know it. People are having to be separated from their loved ones to protect others. Hospitals and nursing homes in our state have imposed strict visitor limitations. These are difficult for many to be separated from those in crisis. Pray for a dissipation of this virus. Pray for wisdom for leaders and health care workers. Pray for your family. God is and will continue to use this situation for His good, no matter what it looks like. That is who He is. I may be on “self-isolation”, but I can reach out to others via phone and technology, and so can you. Do not let fear take hold, resist its deviousness. Continue to seek Him and His ways. They are always good. Learn the peace that comes from sheltering in His place.

Faith and Chronovirus 19

One day, back in December we began to hear about a new virus that began in China. This virus was new but in my world here in Washington it seemed far away. It would be contained and my life would not be too affected by it. Then my daughter in laws sister flew back from the states from Shanghai, where she is working as an elementary music teacher for a private school. She starts receiving emails informing them that all the schools in Shanghai have been closed and her time off has been extended. She was due to fly back on February 7 and she is still here in the States, becoming and online instructor for her students. This started making this virus a little more real, and a little closer to home. Still no real concerns, praying for those affected, but admittedly not too seriously. I found myself laughing as the news began talking about toilet paper hoarders and the E bay people selling hand sanitizer for $56. Still praying and of course washing my hands! I made plans to attend a women’s conference in Maine in two weeks. My flights are scheduled and my plans are set. People are asking me–are you still coming? To be honest, I am still planning on going–but I am waiting to see where things stand next week. People over 60 are being told to stay home and avoid crowds. My daughter told me that in Italy the doctors are having to decide which patients to treat–and are thinking only those under 60. Wow, that lets me out! That makes it a bit more real.

We are now in the second week of March. Washington state has 29 deaths and over 1,000 people diagnosed–but only one confirmed case on our island. Our community college is closed for a few days, our library has canceled outside programs and our pastor is meeting to discuss cancelling a women’s event scheduled for this Saturday. How do we know how to respond to this unknown plague?

First of all, we must walk in faith. We cannot let fear overtake us in any way shape or form. Every action or decision must be done in wise faith however. Back in the first century it was the Christians who stepped up and help during some of the worst plagues that swept through Rome and other parts of Italy. By their actions they actually caused the spread of the gospel. They did not let fear for their own lives stand in the way of helping others. I am not hear to tell you what to do. You must seek God and His wisdom for yourself and your family. But there are things we can do to share God’s care and love.

What can you do? Pray. Pray for your leaders to have wisdom in what to do as far as their authority goes. Pray they are getting wise counsel. Pray for those affected to be healed and for their families. Do not over react and stockpile things that are not needed. Be balanced in your actions. Wash your hands, and again wash your hands!

Pray and support our medical community. They are on the front lines and need support, not criticism. They are risking their own health by taking care of others. It is what they signed up to do, but still it is difficult.

In our state, schools are closing for a season. There are parents who must still work, check in with them to see if you could help them with childcare.

Do not panic. If you choose to self-quarantine, do it in faith, not fear. Pray for those who are trying to keep the supply chain going–grocery stores, gas stations, post office workers etc who do not have the ability to “work from home”.

Pray for those shut in. Let’s pray for those in assisted care facilities who are being isolated from visitors for their own protection which leaves them alone and at times frightened. Give them a call if you can. See if they need anything. Help meet those needs, as you can.

Washington state so far has the most cases confirmed in the U.S. Our leaders are implementing decisions that affect all our lives–physically and economically. I know that God has a plan to use every scenario for His good and plan. As we pray for our leaders and those affected across the world let us release our faith and compassion for those that are affected. Let’s pray for those trailblazing scientists who are actively working on a vaccine to combat this virus. Let’s pray for wisdom for every church leader to know how, if and when to restrict meetings and services. I know there are some people who are compromised in their health and thus at higher risk of greater complications if they contract the disease. Pray for them.

Pray for those in Italy, including American troops who are serving in that area. Some were supposed to rotate back to the states soon. Unfortunately the situations there are putting those dates on hold, affecting their families back here. Please pray for all military personnel and their families.

Build your own health by eating and resting. Drink your water! Most of all, trust that God knows the end of this story. Trust Him. Ask Him how He wants to use you. Put on the armor of God that you may be able to stand, and when you have done all still stand.

Father, protect my friends. We stand on your words in Psalm 91, trusting in your care and provision.

Faith and The Armor of God

Here is a statement of declaration that was shared with me this week. I shared it with our Life Group ladies and we were all very blessed and encouraged by it. Unfortunately, there was no name written on the paper–so I can not give credit where credit is due.

Praying on the Armor of God Ephesians 6:10-18

Today, I willfully and confidently place your armor upon myself in order that I might be strong in You. I choose this protection so that I may stand today against the forces of darkness.

I place upon myself Your Belt of Truth, so that I may determine clearly what is right from what is wrong. I put on Jesus Christ, who is truth, and ask wisdom and discernment to believe, live, speak, and know only the truth. Help me not to be confused or deceived by the deceptive voice of my enemy. Help me always to chase after what is good and right.

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

I take also the Breastplate of Righteousness, so that I may stand confident in the face of my accuser. Thank you for making me Your child, and as Your child, covering me with Your righteousness. You are holy, and I choose to walk in Your holiness in my life today. I ask that when other people see me, they will see Jesus in me.

Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousenes that comes from God. Philippians 3:9

I put on the Shoes of Readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Permeate my life with Your peace, that I might be confident and ready to face the spiritual battle that lies before me. Help me not to be shaken, but rather ready to advance. Help my feet not to slip–help me not to take a wrong path. May your peace keep me settled and assured, and ready to stand my ground in living for You.

The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Eagerly I lift up the Shield of faith. I ask You to surround me–enclose me so that I will be protected from each and every attack that may come to me today. I know, as I place my full trust in You, that You will be a complete and perfect shield for me. When the arrows of doubt and fear, or whatever arrows may come at me, I know Your shield of faith will keep me safe and sure. I put my faith completely in Jesus Christ.

The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who lved me and gave HImself for me. Galatians 2:20

Today, I also put on the Helmet of Salvation, recognizing that my mind and thoughts are a target of Satan’s deceiving ways. I put on Jesus who was, is and always will be my salvation to the very end. Give me the mind of Christ that I will always think and act in ways that are pleasing to You. Cleanse and redeem my thoughts, hopes, goals, plans, and ideas. Place Your cover over the things I think about, hear, see and say. Renew my mind, for an undisciplined mind is easy and swift prey for my enemy.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

I take hold of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Help me to live by its promises. Enable me to use it to defend myself from my enemy. I pray that Your Holy Word will come alive in my heart, in my mind, and in my life. May Your Word always be my guide to me as I apply its powerful truths to every area of my being. I will meditate upon it and hide its words in my heart that I may have it with me at all times on the spiritual battlefield.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Thank You, Father, for prayer. Help me to keep the armor well oiled with prayer. Help me to spend time with You regularly that my armor will be in good condition and ready to serve me…as I serve You. Now, Lord, I am fully armed for battle and dressed for success, I ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Faith and Persistent Prayer

Last week our church scheduled a “Seek Week”. It led up to our Vision Sunday where our Pastor reviewed last year and encouraged us with the vision for this year. Our leaders encouraged us to take time to fast and pray–not only for our church, but also for our individual instructions or vision from the Lord. I will confess due to many reasons, this was one of the hardest fast/prayer times I have experienced.

As I did my best to set more time aside to seek the Lord I found I really had to discipline myself to keep focused on the task at hand. I know the blessing of corporate prayer and the blessing of simple obedience to the fact we were asked to participate, but still I found resistance. Looking back, it was easier when Darryl and I would do it “together”, encouraging each other. I found I had to encourage myself in the Lord in some new ways! It’s not that I haven’t done it since he’s been gone, it was just harder this time. I think maybe there was a grief aspect I hadn’t anticipated. I am thankful for past testimonies of God’s faithfulness when I have prayed and fasted as well. I kept reminding myself that it would be worth it when I finished it!

One night I put on some worship music, opened a book I was reading (Dangerous Prayers by Pastor Craig Groeschel), and began to push through. The not so amazing thing was the Holy Spirit showed up. I opened my Bible to the scripture Groeschel was referencing and I slowly considered them. It was a very special one on one experience with our Heavenly Father. I re-learned the lesson that slowing down with the Word can be soo precious. There really is no need to rush, for when we slow down is when we find the nuggets of truth that can sustain us through difficulties, humble us when we may be tempted to pride, and help us maintain our walk with Him during this season on earth. One scripture particularly stood out to me. I Peter 5:10 In His kindness God called on you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. Isn’t that so comforting? He will restore, support and strengthen me after I suffer a little while. Persistent prayer during our times of suffering helps us stay the course. We find a similar word of encouragement in Psalm 40.1-3.

Psalm 40: I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet on a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–even praise to our God; many will see it, and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Taking time to wait for Him to show up, is not always easy. What a wonderful testimony David gave us–and He turned to me and heard MY cry. David was in a very difficult place–but as he waited for the Lord, God brought Him out and set his feet on his rock and established his steps. He does the same for us. He will establish our going. He will take away the song of lament and whining and replace it with a new song. A song that will cause praise to our God and this is the amazing part: Many will see it, and fear and will trust in the Lord! It is always encouraging to me to know that what I go through, as I do it with the Lord will always bring help and hope to others. It is not just about me!

I have been praying big prayers for family and friends. I believe God is going to show up strong and bring hope and help even to some long term stubborn situations. The key point is to wait patiently and in faith for our God to move. Releasing our faith while we pray and then resting in Him works not only for ourselves, but for others. Keep on asking, believing and allowing Him to change you and if necessary to help customize those prayers as needed. What an amazing God we serve. He does move mountains that seem to be stubborn against our prayers–we may feel we are moving them a spoonful at a time, but so be it! We do our part and He does His. Father, encourage us to wait on you as we are praying. I speak encouragement to everyone who is tempted to quit, keep on my friends. He is working on your behalf even now. Father, send a token for good. I speak hope to the hopeless today. Look up in faith for the moving of His hand, He love is always towards us.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Faith and Transparency

Yesterday a dear friend posted on Facebook a Focus on the Family production of her grand daughter in laws interview. It was Lindsey Pepin Ophus’s story of being raised in a wonderful “perfect” Christian family. They entitled her story “How God Redeemed My Teen Pregnancy”.Yes, Lindsey had just turned 18 when she discovered she was pregnant with her on and off boyfriend’s child at the time. She was shocked and full of shame. Her parents were the same. She was active in her youth group and church and everyone thought she was the “perfect” teen. So what happened? it wasn’t that she did not know what the scripture said, nor that she did not love God–it was simply that she was a growing independent young woman who made some wrong choices. Choices at the time that led her to feel she had crossed a line and therefore could not return to the Lord. She felt unworthy of His love and did not comprehend that was exactly why she needed and had a Savior available. Pastors, teachers and parents had told her what not to but, not what to do if she had crossed those lines. So she felt alienated from the very Lord she needed.

As the interviewer moved past the initial details he asked a question most parents want to know is what happened? What could they have done differently? She made an astute observation. As her pregnancy progressed with her she was amazed how many women came up to her and shared their story with her. Her question to herself and church community, why did I have to wait till after my pregnancy occurred to hear these stories? Why did others not tell share their real life struggles with purity and how God’s grace was able to restore them? What is it about our church culture that prevents us from sharing our own life/sin struggles?

One of the difficulties we face as believing parents is to share our own struggles without feeling we are giving permission for experimentation etc. But it is not just about sexual purity that people are quiet about–it is so many other aspects of our life–where we feel we need to present a “perfect” example of a Pastor, Teacher, Life Group Leader, worship member. What about the struggles of parenting and working through different seasons marriage brings. Drug addiction? Alcohol dependency? Porn? As we ground ourselves in God’s Word and His love we can get over our own shame so we can freely share our HOPE with others. I believe every person needs a place where they can be encouraged to be real with their struggles–while being shown the grace and way to move past them. It takes confident love in our Savior’s grace to be honest about our own struggles. Not always easy.

When I was a young pastor leading different women’s Bible Studies, many of these women were older than I was. I admit I was an insecure leader–but did my best to set an atmosphere of trust and open sharing. Looking back I am amazed at the level of transparency God allowed in our group. One day we talked about sexual abuse and I knew at least 1/2 of the ladies present had suffered molestation as a child. Only one was vocal about it. The others kept silent for awhile. Slowly one or two began to open up and shared their story. It was like we were walking on holy ground, with the Holy Spirit bringing new levels of hope and restoration. More women begin to feel safe to share their own stories and some healing took place. I was too ignorant to know how to help encourage further healing–that I would do today.

Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear each others burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. In order for others to help bear our burdens, we have to let them know we have them–not expecting others to figure it out! Last night at our Life Group I admitted I was struggling with grief. The passing of two friends brought back my own loss in some fresh ways. I could have asked to skip the meeting–but I knew I wanted and needed to spend time with these gals. As I prayed for the meeting, I felt I just needed to be honest with them. I simply said, I want to be with you tonight–I don’t/can’t be your leader tonight. They were so amazing. They just loved me–and let me share. We laughed, shared, prayed and God’s Presence and healing came. One of the gals said, “thank you for sharing your situation, now I know how to pray for you.” They bore my burden last night–coming along side, not taking my pain but simply loving me and letting me know they care.

I felt like a weak leader last night. But as I was meditating on this “word” for today I remembered Jesus time in the garden. He asked his disciples for their prayer and support. Unfortunately they fell asleep and were not able to understand the depth of His asking. They were not aware of all that Jesus would face that night and the next day. He knew they wouldn’t be able to perfectly help him–but still He asked. It’s humbling to ask for help, and it takes faith and love to let those you ask do their best. Only Jesus really knows how to carry our burdens perfectly. After His resurrection those same disciples came together with strength and grace. I remember when I was sorting through my early grief days and realized no one could really fix what I wanted–my husband back! So I turned to Him and asked Him to lead, guide, heal and strengthen me for my new journey as a widow. He has been faithful to take me step by step. Often bringing people, books and thoughts to help me process this difficult journey.

As you lead your family, small group, ministry or church ask the Lord to help you be vulnerable and transparent. Take the time to teach how to grow by employing His grace and mercy. Tell them of your victories, but also of your failures. We learn by both. Lindsey Pepin Ophus gave her daughter up for adoption, and both are thriving. Her story is helping parents and teens learn to communicate more honestly. Her book Joy will Come, Exchange Shame for Redemption is available on Amazon for more information.